Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Michigan Wolverines have options at quarterback in Outback Bowl


The bloomin' irony of this Outback Bowl is drenched in maize, blue and mystery: The most glaring quarterback conundrum in this game exists on the sideline opposite South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.

As sure as the ball drops in Times Square, Spurrier will use both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson in Tuesday's game. What remains shrouded in cryptic quotes and vague clues is what will unfold when the Michigan Wolverines break their initial huddle.

Specifically, what's the deal with Denard Robinson? And is his right elbow, injured in late October, functional enough for forward passing?

"He can do about anything," coach Brady Hoke said.

That's about as extensive as Hoke will get regarding his plans behind center. Offensive coordinator Al Borges isn't much more forthcoming.

"He's going to have a variety of roles, that's all I'm going to say," Borges said.

Maybe Robinson, a Deerfield Beach native and the greatest running quarterback in Wolverines history, adds a garnish to his glowing college career by starting his final game.

Or junior Devin Gardner, highly efficient as Robinson's replacement the past four contests, remains the primary signal-caller while Robinson lines up at tailback, receiver, wildcat quarterback and return specialist.

Or a combination of both.

"Our defensive coaches feel like we've got to be prepared for both of 'em," Spurrier said.

"Sometimes you never know who's coming out and who's going to be behind the center," said Robinson, who has been throwing in practice lately but hasn't thrown in a game in two months. "So that's always fun to hear and fun to do."

With no one talking at length about the immediate future, one must revert to recent history to speculate on what could transpire Tuesday.

A rangy QB-turned-receiver-turned-QB, the 6-foot-4 Gardner was summoned after Robinson sustained nerve damage to his throwing elbow — and sophomore Russell Bellomy flopped in relief — in a two-TD loss at Nebraska on Oct. 27.

In the ensuing four contests (three wins), he has completed 63 percent of his passes (57-for-90) for 1,005 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. A sack-infested loss at Ohio State notwithstanding, he also has brandished some mobility.

"You know, the more you play the better you understand, and he's just got a better feel, a little more body learning," Borges said. "Less sitting in the meeting and hearing me say it and actually doing it makes a heck of a difference."

But for all of Gardner's progress, Hoke reiterated Saturday that this game is huge for his seniors. And what greater final flourish could Robinson — a lifelong Buccaneers fan — conjure than one last triumphant start at Raymond James Stadium, of all places?

He started at quarterback against Ohio State but didn't attempt a pass. He now insists he can throw well enough to win, and he'll likely be the most dangerous running threat on the field Tuesday.

In two games since returning, he has run for 220 yards. He needs 86 to eclipse former West Virginia star Pat White's NCAA career QB record of 4,480.

"It's another headache for the defense," Gamecocks linebacker Shaq Wilson said.

"When you have a guy as dynamic as Denard with his speed and throwing ability, everything, you can't not have him on the field," Wolverines left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "So he'll be all over the place on Jan. 1."

Does that include quarterback? If so, for how long? Will he give more handoffs than he gets?

"We'll see," Borges said.

Michigan Wolverines have options at quarterback in Outback Bowl 12/30/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Abominable Bucs Missing Their Chance


    Of course, they can still win the division.

    They can still make the playoffs.

    Another Sunday, another celebration for the other guys
  2. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'


    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  3. No more looking at Jim Harbaugh, but should we look at Notre Dame?


    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Overheard Sunday morning in a hotel elevator, among two Penn State fans: "Did you see Coach Harbaugh's interview? He looked shellshocked. One of those coaches with his job on the line."

    Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are falling out of the national conversation; Sunday they fell out of the AP rankings after a blowout loss to Penn State. [Detroit Free Press/TNS]
  4. NFL Week 7: What we learned


    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  5. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.